Fuel dealers capitalise on Zim’s porous borders

By Kenneth Matimaire

MUTARE
– As the economic crisis continues to bite, most citizens have turned to
unorthodox means of survival.

Margaret
and Richard Muchena (not their real names) – an elderly couple in their 70s –
are one such an example.

The Dangamvura high density suburb based couple has resorted to smuggling of Mozambican fuel for resell as means to complement their meagre monthly pension fees.

Since
last year, the couple has been smuggling 80 litres of fuel three times a week
without hustle – taking advantage of undesignated points along the porous
Forbes Border Post.

They have since doubled the product as the country is facing a fuel crisis under President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s new dispensation.

While the age of the couple and their choice of supplementary informal job might not tally, they are a mere fraction to the maths.

Hundreds
of citizens especially along bordering towns such as Mutare and Beitbridge are
cashing in on the porous borders, corrupt officials and undesignated points to
smuggle petroleum products into the country.

Manicaland has over 20 illegal entry points along the Mozambican border while there are over 200 such point along the Limpopo River (Beitbridge) corridor bordering South Africa.

Statistics
from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) indicates that government is being
deprived of $1 billion every year from fuel smuggling alone.

This
constitutes 36 percent of the annual budget.

Investigations
conducted in the eastern border city highlighted that rogue dealers are taking
advantage of the fuel crisis intensifies.

Manicaland
police spokesperson Inspector Tavhiringwa Kakohwa confirmed that fuel smuggling
has become rampant after that of bales of second hand clothes.

“At
first we used to have headaches with smuggling of bales of second hand clothes
but now it has spread to soft drinks. Fuel smuggling is also rampant and we
have made a lot of recoveries,” Kakohwa said.

“As
police, we have doubled our efforts and we have deployed uniformed and plain
clothes police officers in strategic areas along the border to ensure that
cases of smuggling are reduced and culprits are brought to book.

“Several
arrests have been made with many goods being recovered as a result of police
efforts to curb smuggling along the border,” he added.

However,
the situation has spiraled out of control as syndicates of registered operators
have resorted to fuel smuggling.

Mutare
police recovered 2,926 litres of fuel smuggled by individuals from Mozambique
in less than two weeks of November.

The
Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) engineer of petroleum products
Andrew Guri said the sector is under siege.